Tufts University’s Nondiscrimination Policy No Longer Applies to Religious Student Groups

Last year, Steven Jackson got kicked out of his leadership position in the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) chapter at the University of Buffalo.

The reason? He was gay.

Steven Jackson. (Photo credit: Meg Kinsley of The Spectrum)

But IVCF couldn’t say that. They’re a registered campus organization and anti-gay bigotry isn’t allowed if you want campus funding. So, instead, they pressured Jackson into resigning on account of the fact that he didn’t condone anti-gay verses in the Bible. In other words, he didn’t fully accept the Bible. Therefore, IVCF felt it was perfectly fine to remove him from a leadership position.

Is that fair? Is that ethical? Is it legal?

For months now, Tufts University has been thinking about those same kinds of questions.

Earlier in the school year, the Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) — an IVCF chapter — was suspended by the Tufts Community Union for having a clause in their Constitution that said anyone applying for a leadership position within the group had to adhere to a “Basis of Faith.”

This requirement violates the TCU Constitution’s non-discrimination clause by excluding students who do not share this belief system, according to Judiciary Chair Adam Sax.

“This is a matter of freedom of religion as we’re looking at it,” Sax, a senior, said. “The parts that need to be changed are parts that [should say] anyone of any faith can be part of this group and attain any leadership position.”

It seems like a silly rule. Of course you should have to be a Christian to lead a Christian group, right? Well… it’s not that simple. Should a white student be allowed to lead a black student group? Can a straight person run an LGBT group? Where do you draw the line? What if a Christian student who strongly supported church/state separation and LGBT rights wanted to lead an atheist group? Should they be rejected outright because of their religious beliefs if they genuinely want the best for the group?

TCF decided to appeal the school’s decision because losing “recognized” status was a big deal:

As an unrecognized group, TCF [lost] the right to use the Tufts name in its title or at any activities, schedule events or reserve university space through the Office for Campus Life and request and receive funding allocated by the TCU Treasury…

A memeber of the TCF’s Vision and Planning Team even made this case in a Tufts Daily op-ed:

As an organization that is part of the greater Tufts community, it is our desire to add to the discussions and activities on campus. Since we are an organization dedicated to the understanding of a set of faith−based beliefs, we feel that we have the right to be selective of our leaders on the basis of belief. This is not to govern the behaviors of the fellowship’s members, interested leaders, or current leaders, but to ensure that TCF remains centered on the traditional evangelical Christian beliefs on which it was founded. We want to be an organization that can appropriately provide guidance and a forum for discussion to other students who are interested in the discovery of the joy and satisfaction of following Jesus Christ.

On Wednesday, Tufts’ Committee on Student Life made their decision on TCF’s status: They’re allowing the Christian group to have a religious exemption to the nondiscrimination policy as long as there’s “doctrinal justification” for it.

The new policy changes the guidelines for the Judiciary’s group recognition process to allow religious groups to argue for “justified departures from the Tufts nondiscrimination policy” in their leadership decisions for Chaplaincy-approved religious reasons.

The decision also allows TCF to remain “conditionally recognized” — without the rights to apply for TCU Senate funding — while it reapplies for recognition under the new guidelines within 60 days.

Yet again, the rules have been twisted to accommodate religious bigotry. The Tufts Daily editorial board wrote a fantastic piece denouncing the school’s decision:

the CSL’s policy, rather than promoting religious freedom, promotes religious exceptionalism. It serves as a loophole that essentially invalidates the nondiscrimination policy — we do not discriminate at Tufts, except when we do — and sets a dangerous precedent that may, down the road, allow for sidestepping of that policy.

… by establishing an avenue through which only SRGs can seek exemption from this policy, the CSL is conferring priority to a single group protected by Tufts’ nondiscrimination clause. It establishes that religious freedom is a right that holds priority over the right to freedoms that any other group protected by the clause could claim. In effect, the same rules no longer apply to those claiming that right.

Already, a group called the Coalition Against Religious Exclusion (CARE) has formed on campus in opposition to this new policy.

My friend Walker Bristol, a Tufts student, tells me that all the other religious groups on campus (as well as Tufts Freethought) will either not make use of this loophole or continue to actively oppose it. That’s fantastic. Get a coalition of students who refuse to abide by the Christian Exemption and show up the students who want rules carved out just for them.

The fact that no other religious student group was clamoring for this rule-change says a lot about how insecure the TCF is about their own organization. I guarantee that the leaders of the club dismiss some parts of the Bible without second thought — because they’re human, and the Bible has a lot of crazy shit in it. But because they don’t disagree with the anti-gay parts of it, they get to call themselves “True Christians” and everyone else can fend for themselves.

That’s not the way a student group should act. That’s not the type of group a university should be supporting with funding. That’s not the kind of policy that was needed. The fact that TCF fought so hard to have a religious exemption to bigotry put in place probably weeded out all sorts of good people from their group, anyway, so they got what they wanted. Anyone who still wants to be a part of a cookie-cutter-Christian group that fights that hard to discriminate against people who don’t think exactly as they do on matters of faith can go join up. Everyone else knows better.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Ian Reide

    Maybe just letting the students concerned elect their own leadership, within a non-discriminatory framework. This group are generally making fools of themselves. 

    This reminds me somehow of an incident in Australia some years back. The governor general at the time, Bill Hayden, was/is an agnostic, and it is his duty to read the lord’s prayer to open the parliament. He asked the parl committee if he could be excused, but they insisted that it was his job. A few quips were made at the time.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      You have an atheist prime minister, had an agnostic governor general, and yet you still pray before parliament. What’s wrong with you Australia?

    • Frank Bellamy

      How does an election change anything? Are you suggesting that it is more acceptable for a whole club to choose one candidate over another because the candidate is in line with club doctrine, than it is for a small group of outgoing leaders to choose one candidate over another for the same reason? Why on earth would that be the case?

      • C Peterson

        An election does change everything. It is entirely acceptable for voting members to use any personal criteria they choose in selecting their leadership. Just as it’s appropriate for Americans to elect their President because of his religious views, but not legal for the system to create any religious requirements.

        By electing their club leadership, the club can ethically decide what belief system they want their leaders to have- unlike the system they currently use.

        • Frank Bellamy

          How can democracy legitimize discrimination (if that is what it is)? Either religious beliefs are an appropriate qualifiation for the office, in which case it should be ok to appoint them on that basis, or they aren’t, in which case it shouldn’t be ok to elect them on that basis. The method an organization uses to make a decision never changes what legal obligations it has to make that decision based on fair criterion. And specifically in the student organization context, the supreme court has held that voting on things does not relieve student organizations of their constitutional obligations no to discriminate (wisconsin v southworth)

          • C Peterson

            Religious beliefs are absolutely legitimate things for voters to consider in choosing who they elect. And they are absolutely inappropriate as the basis for choosing who is allowed to run for office in a club that is, by the rules of the university, open to all.

            • Frank Bellamy

              But why? Why would the appropriateness of using religious beliefs as a selection criteria depend on the procedure by which leaders are selected? I understand what your thesis is, but how do you defend it? What are your reasons?

              • Deven Kale

                 I think I can explain this. It’s very similar to the system we use in electing our government officials. Requiring any test that the candidate must pass in order to be eligible to run is by definition exclusionary and creates a superior ruling class. Only people within certain groups which match certain “superior” criteria can run a candidate.

                It also limits the ability of the voters to truly decide who it is they want to represent them. If they want to have a certain person in that position, but that person does not meet the selection criteria, it actually takes away their right to choose who they vote for.

                I’m sure there are plenty of other valid reasons why passing a test to run for office is a bad idea, but those are the two which are most obvious to me.

              • C Peterson

                Are we talking about the club or the President of the U.S.?

                Assuming the former, my only point was that by electing its leaders, the club becomes fully compliant with the rules of the university, and at the same time achieves the apparent wish of its membership, to avoid gays in leadership positions.

                I hope the issue with governmental elections in the U.S. isn’t in any dispute!

  • anon101

    If the student groups could not discriminate any atheist group that formed could easily be overtaken by the Christians and thus destroying the very safe space that this group was supposed to build in the first place. The right to discriminate is a core requirement to freedom.

    • ortcutt

      As it turns out in the real world, this is a non-problem.  Christians (and other religionists) have no desire to spend their time joining atheist, secular or freethought groups in order to take them over.  Excluding people on a religious basis is order to combat a non-existent problem is completely unjustified.  On the contrary, we should welcome people who want to learn more about freethought.

      • Gus Snarp

        And the reverse is true as well – we have no interest in joining the campus evangelical club and attempting to undermine it from within. And if that did happen, in either direction, the club would essentially shrivel up and die and a new one would be created. 

    • Erp

      I think you’ll find that secular student alliance associated groups can’t discriminate by SSA rules.

      Note  what is forbidden is a priori bans.  The group rules can’t say you are/aren’t X so can’t be a member or can’t stand for office (or must be removed from office).  Nothing forbids the individual members from not voting for some one because they are/aren’t X.   And I don’t think anything forbids requiring candidates from stating where they stand on X and allowing individual voters to make up their own minds. 

      A group can discriminate on certain grounds.  For instance it can (and may be required) to only have as voting members or officers students of the university in good standing.    A group may require a particular skill (e.g., a singing group can require auditions, honor societies a certain GPA) and are allowed to discriminate on that basis.

      Also this also applies only to university recognized groups which have various privileges.  The group can still exist as a non-university recognized group.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      The worry has come up, locally. The approach I suggested was two-fold. First, make sure the goals of the group are included in the group’s charter, and require that officers formally affirm those goals. Second, the local university actually makes student groups very easy to set up. (Getting money is marginally harder.) In the event such a thing happens, have three students fill out paperwork for a new group with themselves as officers, inform the godless in the captured group of the new group… and then contact the national press corps and the usual list of Atheist blogs. The only loss will be the contents of the treasury, which is usually under $200 except when a paid speaker has been contracted to come in; and the national publicity would be easily worth that.

      “It’s a trap.”

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Hemant, I think there is a typo that makes these 2 sentences in this blog post inconsistent/contradictory:

    It says: ” they pressured Jackson into resigning on account of the fact that he didn’t condemn anti-gay verses in the Bible. In other words, he didn’t fully accept the Bible.”

    Maybe it’s meant to say that he didn’t CONDONE the anti gay verses?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Yep, meant condone. Fixed. Thanks.

  • jose

    But remember, faith is all about spirituality, nothing at all to do with politics, with who’s in control.

    These people will grow up and become judges, CEOs and lawmakers.

  • Rwlawoffice

    It is not bending the rules to support religious bigotry, it’s upholding the .constitutional right of freedom of association.

    • Frank Bellamy

      Yes, framing this as freedom of association rather than a religious exemption is exactly right here. The comparison to a straight person leading an LGBT group or a white person leading a black group is wrong because those aren’t belief-based organizations. As has been pointed out before, there is nothing in being straight that inherently requires one to believe that there is something wrong with being gay or vice versa, and the same is true with race. It is not true however with religion. If a person is a christian, they will necessarily believe that an atheist group has a lot of false beliefs at its basis (otherwise the person is not a christian), and vice versa, so they wouldn’t be qualified to lead the group. The same reasoning applies to a libertarian wanting to lead a socialist group or a pro-choicer wanting to lead a pro-life group or a person who opposes gay marriage wanting to lead an LGBT group or a pacifist wanting to lead a veterans group. And the exemption flowing from freedom of association should apply in all those cases as well.

      • Marella

         My daughter is a straight girl in a leadership position in a gay organization. It causes no problems at all.

        • Frank Bellamy

          Good for her. I’m not sure why you are stating that as a response to my comment, as it is completely consistent with what I said.

          • Gus Snarp

            Sometimes people replying to a comment aren’t arguing against it.

      • Paul_Robertson

        It’s not about freedom of association. No one is telling them that they can’t have their club and run it the way that they want. The issue is about money. They want to take the university’s money, but not to have to follow the university’s rules. Hardly a “right” to be defended.

    • ortcutt

      This concerns policy for University-sanctioned groups.  Tufts is a private university, and so there’s no state action involved. 

      There’s nothing stopping anyone involved from starting whatever group they want without University support and policies.

      I’m disturbed to think that someone would have “law office” in their handle but not understand that.  I really hope that you aren’t an attorney.

      • Bubba Tarandfeathered

         He is.

        • Glasofruix

           A piss poor one at that.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Yeah, if he argues in court like he argues here… I don’t see much success, there.

      • Frank Bellamy

        As a matter of legal formality, you are of course correct that the first amendment doesn’t apply to private universities like Tufts. However, most private universities (and there are exceptions) publicly put themselves forward as upholding principles of freedom of expression and inquiry and association and so forth, potentially making Tuft’s actions illegal as a breach of contract rather than a violation of the federal constitution. As a matter of the principles and values actually being discussed here, I think that distinction is unimportant.

      • Coyotenose

         He is. He’s one of those scuzzy dishonest types that have given the entire profession a bad name. He’s been playing dishonest word games since his first post here, and took a long break after he got called out on them repeatedly. As is typical of the breed, he didn’t expect to encounter people who could refute his apologetics-derived garbage, and his ego couldn’t handle it. Now, as is also typical for the breed, he’s reduced to mere trolling and isn’t even trying to justify himself. They always, ALWAYS end up descending into outright lying and non sequiturs when their basic kit of arguments proves ineffective in reality.

        Oh, and he’s so stupidly tone-deaf and/or borderline sociopathic that he crowed about converting young Ugandans to his religion in the middle of an international story about religious Ugandans legalizing murderous homophobia. Unfortunately, that’s expected behavior from a member of Rw’s apologizing-for-hiding-pedophile-rapists religion.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

      They are and were free to associate.  The university doesn’t have to pay to support bigoted organizations. 

      • Frank Bellamy

        (1) there is no evidence that they are bigoted. That is a completely unfounded accusation.

        (2) in a university context, denying a group recognition (which entails meeting space and advertising as well as the possibility of money) amounts to telling the group it can’t exist, because the university controls everything on campus. So yes, refusing to support them on the same terms as any other student group is denying them their freedom to associate.

        • Paul_Robertson

          The freedom to associate does not include the right to form an organisation based on someone else’s private property, much less the right to force the owner of the property to pay your group a stipend to boot. No rights have been violated here.

          • Frank Bellamy

            It does when the owner of that property enters into a contract with you (as universities do with their students) to allow you the freedom of association and expression.

            • Paul_Robertson

              Really? My university never included any such clauses in my contract. Do you have a copy of this university’s contract?
              And even if they had, contracting to allow freedom of association is very different to contracting to fund said associations. If I said to you that I support your right to freedom of association, it would give you no cause to turn up to my house and demand the right to have your meetings in my living room. Same for the university.

              • Frank Bellamy

                Unless you went to Liberty or something, your university probably did have that, and you just didn’t realize it. Universities make all kinds of public represetnations about themselves and publish all kinds of policies, and those are part of their contracts with their students, whether or not the student ever signs a piece of paper with those words on it. If a university publishes on its website a policy that says “we will give our students X, Y, and Z”, and then it doesn’t give them X, Y, and Z, it has breached its contract, whether particular students ever saw it or not.

                As to giving them money, sometimes that is part of freedom of assocation. There is a concept in first amendment law called “viewpoint discrimination”. Basically what that means is that the government doesn’t have to let any private speaker use its resources to communicate his message, but one private speaker do it, it has to let them all do it on equal terms, without regard to viewpoint. This has been enormously useful to atheist and LGBT student groups at both the high school and college levels. Schools and colleges don’t have to provide resources (including meeting space and advertising) to any student groups if they don’t want to, but once they start providing resources to some student groups, they have to provide those same resources to all groups without regard to their viewpoint. Denying all student groups the right to meet in classrooms is ok, denying the atheist and LGBT student groups the right to meet in classrooms while allowing the evangelical christian student groups to meet in classrooms is not ok. That’s the notion of freedom of expression and association that is at play here. Just as a university can’t use its power to discipline to privilege one viewpoint over another (by punishing students on one side of a controversy but not the other for the same behavior), it also can’t use its power to allocate resources to privilege one viewpoint over another (by funding groups that believe homosexuality is morally fine but not groups that believe it isn’t).

                Here’s another way to look at this. If you and I enter into a contractual arrangement where I live in your house, work in your house, and form associations with other people who live and work in your house, and those associations rely on the space and advertising money you provide for your existence (because really, nobody in those associations ever goes outside your house), then it seems much more reasonable that your promise of freedom of association entails your providing my association money and meeting space and advertising on the same basis that you provide those things to other associations. That’s the kind of scenario we are talking about here. From the students point of view, the university controls just about every aspect of their lives, it is more pervasive than any local government, and so for the university to use its power to push one ideological viewpoint is at least as tyranical, at least as violative of the students autonomy and freedom of thought and expression and association, as when a government does so.

                • Paul_Robertson

                  “If a university publishes on its website a policy that says “we will give our students X, Y, and Z”, and then it doesn’t give them X, Y, and Z, it has breached its contract, whether particular students ever saw it or not.”
                  It’s a little more complicated than that, but let’s accept your statement for the moment. Where is the representation from the university in question?

                  “There is a concept in first amendment law called “viewpoint discrimination”.”
                  Hopefully you’re just drawing an analogy as the first amendment doesn’t apply to private institutions. That being the case, it’s a poor analogy for two reasons. Firstly, you have not explained why freedom of association should be governed by the same rules as freedom of speech. Secondly, offering endorsement to all clubs that open their membership to all students is viewpoint-neutral. Evangelicals are free to have their clubs; they just need to let anyone in who wants to join.

                • Frank Bellamy

                  http://uss.tufts.edu/studentaffairs/handbook/campus/expression.asp

                  I’m not sure what your point is in distinguishing between freedom of speech and association, the basic ideas are the same, and courts have applied the concept of viewpoint discrimination to student groups numerous times, widmar v vincent and UVa v rosenberger are the cases that come immediately to mind.

                  To claim that this is “endorsement” is flatly wrong. Universities are always clear (because they don’t want to be held liable for the actions of student groups they can’t supervise) that university recognition is not endorsement, it’s just recognition that this is an organization of students entitled to the same rights as all other students in the community. Just like the government doesn’t endorse the klan by letting them march down main street, it merely recognizes that they are a group of citizens with the same freedoms of expression and association as anyone else.

                  Finally, of course this is viewpoint discrimination. The question of whether homosexuality is moral is a textbook example of an issue where there are two different viewpoints that the government (or in this case the private university) has to be neutral between when it allocates resources to private speakers. If the university supports student groups that say homosexuality is not wrong, but not student groups that say it is wrong, how can you say that that isn’t viewpoint discrimination?

                • Paul_Robertson

                  “I’m not sure what your point is in distinguishing between freedom of speech and association”
                  My point is that up to this point, your argument has been based on freedom of association. Viewpoint discrimination, that policy and those cases are all about freedom of expression. I’m happy to discuss that, but let’s agree to resolve one line of argument before introducing a new one. Unless you are conceding that freedom of association is not at issue here?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

          We disagree on this issue.  The meaning of bigotry from dictionary.com: stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

          I say the shoe fits.  Whatever emotion or lack of emotion goes with the intolerance.

  • Frank Bellamy

    Hemant, unless you know something you’re not saying, your accusation of bigotry here is completely out of line. Many christian groups genuinely believe that homosexuality is just like any other sin, and as long as you accept christian doctrine that it is a sin and repent and all that stuff, you are ok. Many of the christians who say that that is there position are being completely honest and are not prejudiced. So unless there is specific evidence that that is not the case with regard to the Tufts group or the Buffalo group, you should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are genuinely treating homosexuality like any other sin and not being bigoted. If you want to then argue that they are still wrong to require that, that’s a legitimate position to take, you don’t have to start with unfounded accusations.

    • Compuholic

      Many christian groups genuinely believe that homosexuality is just like any other sin

      Sure, but why should that be everyone elses problem? If I was to genuinely believe that interracial marriage is a sin, would that somehow not be bigotry?

      It would not be bigotry if they had any rational reasons to discriminate against homosexuality. If they had a rational proposition, one could at least argue about it and assess the merit of their argument. 

      But they choose to base their position on irrational  bullshit. And if there is nothing to assess the quality of their arguments they are not justified in believing it themselves. This means their position is based on nothing but personal preference. And intolerance against other beliefs or creeds that differ from yours is pretty much the definition of bigotry.

      • Frank Bellamy

        If bigotry is imply a belief about a person or group that isn’t rationally supported, then all religion is bigotry, and that can’t be right. The difference between this and bigotry is that a bigot believes he is better than the people he is prejudiced against. A christian believes that he is just as much a sinner as the gay person, there isn’t that superior/inferior mindset, and that makes it not bigotry.

        Also, basing their position on religious beliefs, which I agree is irrational bullshit, is not a choice. Nobody chooses to have the beliefs they do, we simply look at the evidence and the arguments and follow them where they lead, and that applies as much to the christians as to us atheists.

        • Compuholic

          Bigotry needs to imply an irationally held belief. If it would it would be bigotry to lock away criminals (After all criminal only operate under a different set of rules than the rest of us). 

          If bigotry is imply a belief about a person or group that isn’t rationally supported, then all religion is bigotry, and that can’t be right.

          If A implies B it does not mean that A = B. But I will say this. Everytime a religious person tries to push an irrationally held belief on others: that is bigotry.

          • Frank Bellamy

            Sorry for not proofreading, the word “imply” shouldn’t have been in that sentence at all. But if you honestly believe that every instance of a religious person pushing an irrational belief is bigotry, then it sounds to me like you are the one prejudiced against religious people. You’re basically saying a person can’t be religious without being a bigot, and that isn’t a viable position.

            • Compuholic

              You’re basically saying a person can’t be religious without being a bigot [...]

              Please point to the sentece where I said anything remotely like that. You really are not grasping the concept, do you?

              But to make it perfectly clear even to you, here it is again: People can be as religious as they like. For all I care they can believe that homosexuality is a sin, that ice cream is evil or whatever stupid idea comes to their loonie mind. I’m fine with that.

              What they cannot do is to force their irrational ideas on others. That is what makes them bigots, not holding irrational believes. This really should not be a hard concept to grasp.

              And btw. I am not prejudiced against religious people (think literally about the meaning of the word “pre-judge”). But I will be very judgemental if they push their bullshit on others. And yes, in that case I will judge them to be bigots. I do not pre-judge them. I judge them according to their actions. (that should be a familiar concept, even to the religious)

              • Frank Bellamy

                It’s not a hard concept to grasp, it’s just a wrong concept. If these people really believe that ice cream is evil (to use your example), then that isn’t just a statement that applies to them, it is a statement that applies to everyone. If it is true, then everyone who makes and eats ice cream is doing harm, and they have an ethical duty to prevent the production and consumption of ice cream. Telling them they shouldn’t is telling them that they can’t believe that ice cream is evil. Truth isn’t relative. They may be wrong about what is true, but at least they take their beliefs seriously, and that makes them worthy of a lot more respect than the kind of relativism you are putting forward.

                • Compuholic

                  If it is true, then everyone who makes and eats ice cream is doing harm, and they have an ethical duty to prevent the production and consumption of ice cream

                  Bingo, you basically confirmed exactly what I said about bigotry. This is why I said that bigotry implies an irrationally held belief. If the belief would be rational it could be a worthwile proposition. Since the belief is irrational, denying other people ice cream would be bigotry.

                  Telling them they shouldn’t is telling them that they can’t believe that ice cream is evil

                  Erm what?! They are free not to eat ice cream themselves. But they can’t make everybody else not eat ice cream. That would be bigotry then.

                  If they had a good reason that everybody else should not eat ice cream, the belief would not be irrational, hence not bigotry.

                • Frank Bellamy

                  So what you are saying is that a person who believes that eating ice cream is evil, and who therefor believes that my eating ice cream will do serious harm, is never the less ethically required not to interfere with my eating of ice cream? Seriously?

                • Compuholic

                  Ok now I am convinced that you are purposefully misrepresenting my posts.

                  Go fuck yourself, Asshole.

        • Coyotenose

           Christian doctrine says that everyone is a sinner. It also says that people who admit that are “Saved” and have a special relationship with God. That is not a stance of equality. Religions are, among other things, about creating an in-group and an out-group. It is a necessary consequence of the religion (as of most) that its adherents believe themselves to be better than others.

    • 3lemenope

      I truly love how making bigotry sincere and placing it in some sort of metaphysical framework is supposed to change everything. 

      “We’re not bigots because we feel like it. We’re bigots because we believe God ordered us to be! How dare you criticize our bigotry, we believe in it wholeheartedly! And hey, if you stop being the thing we’re bigoted against, we’ll totally stop hating you. Isn’t that sweet of us?”

      • Stev84

        I truly hate the phrase “sincerely held religious beliefs” that these nutjobs usually use to justify the most horrible things.

    • RobMcCune

      Many of the christians who say that that is there position are being completely honest and are not prejudiced

      Those aren’t mutually exclusive. But since you brought up honesty, how should the club handle the dishonest way they attempted to get rid Jackson? If they’re really treating this like any other sin, then no one responsible for removing him should take his place or be allowed in the club. Let me know when that happens.

      • Frank Bellamy

        How were they dishonest in removing him? You seem to be basing your response on facts with which I am not familiar.

        • RobMcCune

          Their stated reason was that he didn’t believe in certain bible verses, as I mentioned above. It was a dishonest way to try to avoid violating the non-discrimination policy and get rid of a gay member of their club.

          • Frank Bellamy

            Do you have a reason to believe that their stated reason was not their actual reason? Because I don’t. It sounds like you are just assuming that they hate gays, and that therefor any other reason they give must be a lie. That assumption is unwarranted.

            • RobMcCune

              I do believe their real reason is different from their stated reason, since the pressure to remove him from began after they found out he had a boyfriend. As well as other members telling him they did not want an openly gay student to hold his position.

              In defending these people you’ve moved to absurd position that this is really a theological dispute, while elsewhere arguing that not allowing gay students is entirely consistent with their beliefs. That and you’ve also resorted to strawmanning. If you really think that you’ve accurately described my thinking, then you need to reread our conversation.

              Btw here’s a source for details about the events.

              http://www.ubspectrum.com/news/intervarsity-christian-fellowship-pressured-gay-treasurer-to-resign-1.2722340?MMode=true#.Tt0AeuvMEu8

    • Coyotenose

       Slavery, segregation, and miscegenation laws were also supported by sincerely held religious beliefs.

      This issue does not exist in a vacuum. We have overwhelming evidence that their behavior is a part of pervasive systematic bigotry and discrimination. Hemant’s interpretation takes that context into account. Yours doesn’t.

      • Frank Bellamy

        I don’t deny that there is pervasive systematic bigotry against LGBT people out there, and that it is a serious problem. I do deny that all christians who think homosexuality is a sin are a part of it. I do deny that all christian organizations which exclude unrepentant (that is a key word) gay people from their leadership are hateful or prejudiced or anything like that. I base this on having known a number of christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin but who are not prejudiced. Do you have evidence, “overwhelming” or otherwise, to the contrary? If so, please share.

    • Ibis3

       Bigotry usually is founded in sincere belief. Honesty and prejudice are not mutually exclusive.

      • Frank Bellamy

        Of course they aren’t exclusive in general, I was not suggesting that they were. I was pointing out that there is a strong line of thought within christianity which holds homosexuality to be a sin and therefor justifies the course of action these two student groups took, without any prejudice or hatred, and that therefor Hemant was unwarranted in attributing bigotry to them.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

          It is prejudice.  By definition, an opinion based on inadequate facts.  I don’t care about what emotion goes along with the prejudice.    They are bigots even if they think and believe that they are loving and nice.  They need to examine themselves as we all need to examine ourselves for our own bigotry.  

          • Frank Bellamy

            So you’re one of those people who dilutes the word bigotry to the point of meaninglessness by saying everyone is a bigot? You aren’t helping anyone by doing that, you are just making it more difficult for anyone to have an intelligent conversation about such issues.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

              How is removing the emotion from the word diluting the word?   Prejudice is an opinion based on inadequate facts.    Whether it is hate filled or based on some other reason the effect is the same.  That isn’t dilution.  That is drilling down to the real issue.  

              • Deven Kale

                It depends on the word. Bigotry is predicated on hatred, so if you remove the emotion from it then it becomes something else- simple prejudice. What’s interesting is that you at least seem consistent in trying to remove the emotion by using bigotry and prejudice interchangeably. Why not just use the words as intended though? Use prejudice to claim an irrational attitude of hostility or oppression based on inadequate facts, and bigotry for the same but including  a obstinance and hatred. This way you have different terms to use, based on the degree of prejudice your subject holds.

  • DougI

    I’m guessing that Christian group just picks and chooses which “sins” they want to validate.  I doubt they lock their property, I mean women, away when they are menstruating or forgo shellfish in the cafeteria.  They’re just a hate group.

    • Frank Bellamy

      Choosing which verses of the bible to believe is very different from the question of whether they actually believe that homosexuality is a sin equal to any other sin. Of course their beliefs don’t corespond well to the text, that doesn’t mean they don’t genuinely believe what they say they do. For you to call them a hate group like this, without evidence, makes you no better than the people who call atheist groups hate groups just because we are atheists. I’m embarrased that you are part of the atheist movement Doug.

      • Patterrssonn

        You know I’ve never actually used this word before but Frank you need to chillax.

      • RobMcCune

        Did you miss the part where Steven Jackson was kicked out for not believing certain bible verses? That is the club’s stated reason, DougI is perfectly reasonable in calling them out on that.

      • DougI

         From the story the kid was kicked out for being gay, and the group had a standard that gays must be hated in order to be a member of the group.  If membership in a chess club required a person to hate Blacks would you consider that a hate group?

        I don’t know why Christian groups get called ‘normal’ for hating entire groups of people.  Do religious groups get a pass on hatred if they hate in the name of their religion?  I don’t see why that should be the case.  I doubt any people are being ousted from the group because they cut their hair or have tattoos, heck, they probably even let unmarried, non-virginal women in the group.

        But I guess it’s just okay to hate gays these days.

        • Frank Bellamy

          He wasn’t kicked out of the group, he was removed from a leadership position, and it had nothing to do with hating gays. The requirement was to believe that homosexuality was a sin, and therefor for homosexuals to repent and ask god for forgiveness. He did not do that. That is why he was removed. The christians think they are all sinners, gay or straight, and the important thing is to accept Jesus and seek his forgiveness. That isn’t hatred. And unlike you chess club example, it is intimately tied to the purpose of a christian student group.

          • RobMcCune

            Where was the requirement to believe that homosexuality is a sin specified in the group’s doctrine?

            • Frank Bellamy

              I’m not familiar enough with the specifics of that case to know if it was written down anywhere. I did attend the meetings of my schools chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IV) for a while in undergrad though, and  I do think any reasonable person familiar enough with IV to seek a leadership position in one of its chapters would know that that was part of the doctrine, though.

      • Coyotenose

        Personally, I’m embarrassed that anyone is part of the atheist movement who can’t spot an obvious, dishonest dodge around a nondiscrimination policy in order to facilitate harming a group member.

    • C Peterson

      We do not know the motives of the people involved. Calling them hateful is both counterproductive, and in at least some cases, certainly wrong. Disapproving of homosexuals for religious reasons is not inherently hateful.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        disapproving of blacks because of religious reasons is not inherently hateful.

        disapproving of women because of religious reasons is not inherently hateful.

        disapproving of jews because of religious reasons is not inherently hateful.

        disapproving of liberals because of religious reasons is not inherently hateful.

        see how that works? oh, wait, you don’t….

        • C Peterson

          I agree with each of your statements. There are reasons besides “hate” for disliking people. We don’t have to agree with those reasons- indeed, we can find them extremely distasteful- but to blindly lump them all under “hate” is simply inaccurate, and tends to shut down constructive discussion.

          • RobMcCune

            You’re right, however list above is an example of inherent bias, prejudice, and bigotry,  as well as a basis for discrimination. Arguing that such ‘disapproval’  contributes to, or masks, hatred isn’t out of line.

            • C Peterson

              Rob- I didn’t suggest otherwise. I have no doubt that irrational hatred is present in many people. But in this case, we’re talking about a large group with presumably diverse beliefs.

              I am not defending those beliefs at all, nor the actions they generate. I’m simply saying that using “hate” as a blanket excuse is not accurate (I think it is likely that many in the club who disapprove of homosexuality do not hate homosexuals), and unfair. We are perfectly capable of providing rational arguments why their behavior- even if perceived by them as moral and ethical- is harmful and should be changed. Labeling them haters and leaving it at that is counterproductive.

              • 3lemenope

                You’re arguing it is illegitimate to make a statement about a group because there might be an exception?

                Humans think and work in categories, and usually people employing them are cognizant that there might be exceptions on the fringes. That doesn’t mean we should give up categories as cognitive or descriptive tools, does it?

                • C Peterson

                  I’m arguing that applying an inaccurate stereotype to a group is unfair and irrational.

                  The correct assessment in this case is that the group and most of its members disapprove of homosexuality. No evidence has been offered at all that anybody hates homosexuals. I think it is likely that many, even most, of the members do not.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

                  Quibbling over semantics.  The effect is the same whether it is the emotion of hate or the emotion of disgust or no emotion at all, just following rules that are unfair to a group.  

                • C Peterson

                  So, is it “just semantics” when you are accused of hating Christians because you are opposed to governmental displays of religious symbols?

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIOCTUX55ZX6IP6OYWJGP4IAYI Ruth

                  The difference is that the rules are not unfair to the Christians.  Which is the bottom line. They may certainly have an emotional response to those rules.  

                • C Peterson

                  Yet, Christians feel the rules are unfair to them. I agree with you they are not, but this is about perceptions, not necessarily reality.

      • DougI

         So if I said you couldn’t be in the chess club because you didn’t hate Blacks, would that seem hateful or not?

        • C Peterson

          I guess that would depend on my asking you just why that rule existed. Your example might well reveal an unsupportable hatred for blacks. But perhaps you might have some justification. For example, if you were a member of a church that considered blacks to be the spawn of Satan, you would be operating ethically, not hatefully, in attempting to exclude them.

          Note that in this case, the club does not have a rule that prevents you from being in the club because you refuse to hate homosexuals, but rather because you don’t adhere to certain biblical beliefs. I don’t think the club should be legally allowed to take this position, but I don’t think the term “hateful” is properly applied to describe it.

          • 3lemenope

            This requires us to make the leap that if a person believed Black people to be the spawn of Satan that they wouldn’t hate Black people.

            And that’s frankly just stupid. You seem to be distracted by the fact that there can be many psychological layers between the proximate excuse for a behavior and its ultimate motivation. In this case, they would be rationally applying their ethic, and that ethic would be hateful in nature.

            • C Peterson

              Perhaps. I’d call that hate justified, then, the same way I’d feel about a skinhead or a murderer.

          • Deven Kale

            It would depend on how they feel towards the spawn of Satan. If they feel hostile and averse (find it actively repugnant or distasteful) to the spawn of Satan, then yes they would hate the blacks too. If, according to the doctrine their church follows, the spawn of Satan isn’t considered a problem (unlikely I know), then that wouldn’t be hateful.

            Same in this case. If, according to the scriptures this group adheres to, you are supposed to be hostile or averse, then that is also hateful. I find it hard to believe that this group, being Christian, are not averse to homosexuality, so it most definitely is a hateful stance.

      • Coyotenose

         Yes it is. It causes harm to some without benefit to any. It doesn’t matter if they feel hateful; their actions are hateful.

        • C Peterson

          I don’t see it that way. I might as well argue that removing religious displays from government settings harms some without benefit to any, and is therefore hateful.

          It’s nonsense. People see the world many different ways, and for everyone to label everybody else’s views “hateful” is absurd. We do not need to see beliefs as “hateful” to seek changing them. Indeed, recognizing that people hold such beliefs without hate, and for reasons that seem entirely rational and ethical to them, is the first step in finding effective ways to change opinions.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Prejudice appears more usually rooted in fear and/or contempt (or rarely, outrage over some difference); hatred does not necessarily follow, but frequently seems to.

        While there are outliers from the trend, there’s still a trend.

        • C Peterson

          I completely agree.

      • guest

        I think you’re just arguing over semantics. Our definition of “hate” has evolved. A guy could say “No, I don’t hate women, I love them! I just don’t think they should be able to vote.” I define hate as “denying someone a right which is granted to others for religious or emotional reasons.” (ie reasons not based in reality)

        • C Peterson

          I define hate as “denying someone a right which is granted to others for religious or emotional reasons.”

          I don’t. In most cases, I see hate as being unjustified even by the standards of the hater, and largely recognized as immoral by the hater.

          Of course, there is also the case of justified hate, which is a different matter. But I do think that most (although by no means all) Christians who are opposed to homosexuality don’t harbor much animus towards homosexuals as individuals.

          • 3lemenope

            But I do think that most (although by no means all) Christians who are opposed to homosexuality don’t harbor much animus towards homosexuals as individuals.

            “How could I hate gay people? I know a gay! I even shake his hand. I just think they’re perverse and will roast in hellfire.”

            • C Peterson

              Yes, that about sums it up. I would not call the attitude of that person “hatred” at all. Crazy? Irrational? Harmful? All of the above. But not hate.

              • 3lemenope

                Ask them to talk about a nonspecific gay person–i.e. “gays in general”–and the bile pours forth without remittance. You are essentially arguing that it is impossible that a person hates a category because they have compartmentalized one member of that set away from their hatred (and not even completely, at that).

                And that’s silly.

                • C Peterson

                  I’m not arguing that at all. All I said was that it is unfair and irrational to assume that every Christian who dislikes homosexuality does so out of hatred. You’re trying to extend my comment much too far.

        • Deven Kale

          But what you define isn’t hate, it’s much closer to simple repression. While repression can be motivated by hatred, in itself it’s not. I do understand that the meaning of a word can change over time, it’s still basically the same word from one iteration to the next. Hate, according to Merriam-Webster (based on common US usage) is thus:

          1 a : intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury
          b : extreme dislike or antipathy : loathing

          This is nothing close to the way you’re using it here. You’re not just using an “evolved” definition of the word, you’re trying to redefine it completely. If you want to have an honest discussion with people and have both sides be understood, you need to use the common definition of a word, and not redefine it just to suit your needs.

          In the example you gave, “No, I don’t hate women, I love them! I just don’t think they should be able to vote,” that’s actually not hatred. It’s reprehensible yes, but not hatred. Nor is it bigotry or misogyny because both of those require hatred as well. You’d have to know the reason why they don’t want them to vote before you can make any actual value judgements upon them. The man may just simply be (irrationally) frightened for his own rights, which is not hate.

      • Nope

        “Disapproving of homosexuals for religious reasons is not inherently hateful.”

        Haha, get a load of this guy.
        Don’t bother with a pretentious, long-winded reply that toys with semantics about how disapproval and discrimination isn’t hate.  Stop trying to meander “in the middle” of the issue.

    • Gus Snarp

      I think you’re dead right.

    • Gus Snarp

      I think you’re dead right.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The more rigid a group’s communal thinking, the more difficult it is for its members to tolerate variations in each others’ individual thinking.  If you believe you possess a source of absolute, perfect, and unchanging knowledge, then you’re going to immediately come into conflict with those who have tiny, minor differences in how they interpret and express that knowledge. If it’s supposedly absolute, perfect, and unchanging, then no two interpretations, no matter how similar they are, can be correct. Only one can be correct, and the other must be absolutely, perfectly, and unchangingly wrong.

    This is why there are many thousands of subdivisions of Christianity, and why those branches which are the most obsessed with absolute, perfect and unchanging knowledge will continue to split and split and split over differences that outsiders would consider to be trivial. This is why very small towns have 25 different churches with very small congregations, and they all just barely get along.

    TCA is encrusted in its own absolutist petrification, and so it is inevitable that it will split. It just kicked out a variant member, and it feels fully justified in doing so.

  • GG

    Let’s just see what would happen if one of those ‘doctrinal beliefs’ were to include a declaration that blacks should all be slaves, or that you must stone your disobedient child to death. I’m sure the rules would change VERY quickly!

  • Giscindy2

    From what I understand the group can still exist and do as they please however they would not be allowed to use the Tufts name or funds without this exception. I think that is reasonable. No one is telling them what to do they were just told the University would not support them. But whining and crying will get you everywhere so now a bigotry loophole has been created that I am sure will come back to bite them on the ass.

    • Frank Bellamy

      It’s not just the name and money, it is the ability to meet on campus and advertise on campus. Those things are critical to the functioning of any student organization, without them any student group will fail. So denying the group recognition is telling it it can’t exist for all practical purposes.

    • Frank Bellamy

      It’s not just the name and money, it is the ability to meet on campus and advertise on campus. Those things are critical to the functioning of any student organization, without them any student group will fail. So denying the group recognition is telling it it can’t exist for all practical purposes.

  • mad burt

    I’m a sophomore at Tufts and though I don’t necessarily agree with
    the decision for the committee on student life regarding religious groups and
    the ways in which they select their leadership I take issue with the way that
    people opposing the decision are choosing to argue their points. You wrote:
    “I guarantee that the leaders of the club dismiss some parts of the Bible
    without second thought-because they’re human, and the Bible has a lot of crazy
    shit in it.  But because they don’t disagree with the anti-gay parts of
    it, they get to call themselves “True Christians” and everyone else
    can fend for themselves.”   Really? Can you really guarantee that? And on what
    basis are you able to make claims about the TCFs beliefs?  It seems to me
    that people are lumping their issues with TCF with their issues with the
    Christian faith.  That is also religious discrimination.  Christians,
    like many faiths, have scriptures they deem sacred.  People do this all
    the time on the internet, “well if you’re a christian why do you eat
    shellfish? huh?”  This demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of
    religious texts and how they are used by their followers.  They are not
    rulebooks, but a sacred history of their religion and they choose what parts
    they would like to adhere to and live through.  Some followers may want to
    adhere to every word the book because they see it as the literal word of god
    while others may not.  There are many shades of christianity.  This
    is not exclusive to Bible.  The Qu’ran, the Torah, etc. are equally applicable.
     How are you to know how much the TCF is adhering to or
    “dismiss”ing parts of the Bible?  You’re extrapolating TCFs
    beliefs based on your prejudices against christianity.  Just to be clear,
    I am an agnostic and I support gay rights and I see some of the practices of
    the Christian faith as extremely damaging (Westboro Baptist Church anyone?) but
    that being said, it’s a dangerous path we move down when we generalize and hate
    on Christianity as one blanket organization. It’s religious discrimination just
    as much as atheist bashing is and just as much as discriminating against
    candidates for leadership positions in religious groups based on doctrinal
    grounds is.  Your article would have more power if you actually interviewed a
    TCF member or researched their policies as a group because I’m pretty sure
    they’re not anti-gay and the fact that you implied that in your article shows
    your prejudice against Christianity. 

    • mad burt

      Also, you begin your story with a description of a student who was excluded from a University of Buffalo christian group based on the fact that he was gay and yet your whole story is about Tufts University’s christian group, unfairly relating the two incidents.  TCF hasn’t barred a gay person from their group to my knowledge and it seems people in the comments are confusing the two stories.  This was probably your intention, to relate the crimes of the group in Buffalo to a completely unrelated group at Tufts.

      • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

        This is a point worth repeating, as I know I had that impression until I went back for a second read (the comments didn’t help).

    • Godlesspanther

      The article contains quotes from people on both sides of the issue. 

      Relax. 

    • Gus Snarp

      I think you entirely miss the point of the shellfish argument, maybe the people you’re listening to aren’t using it properly, but I think Hemant is.

      The point is not that we, as non-Christians, think we can tell people whether they’re Christian or not. Most of us aren’t all that interested in that. The point is to point out inconsistent application of Biblical rules.

      The student group is saying this young man can’t be a leader of the group because he disagrees with Bible verses saying that homosexuality is a sin. But the odds are extremely high that other leaders of the group eat shellfish, have tattoos, and where blended fabrics, all condemned in the very same book of the Bible, within a few lines as the condemnation of homosexuality.

      The question is what makes homosexuality different. Why does the group make it a condition for leadership, but not any of these other things. The Bible does not support this. At the very least they ought to cite some other source of authority, but that’s probably a problem for them, since they don’t want to contravene Biblical authority, and the may not have a clear statement of faith that all of them follow that is the least bit clear on these matters.

  • Chakolate

    The university should allow them to discriminate based on their religious beliefs.  However, they should have to post a warning along with all their materials to the effect that they practice discrimination against x, y, and z individuals. 

    Because honesty is the best policy, right, Christians?

  • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

    This is pathetic. And to be frank, since Tufts aspires to compete with institutions such as Harvard and MIT, this decision to privilege a religious group on campus speaks volumes about the quality of education and raises questions about the schools administration. Good on the Tufts students, including Walker Bristol, who are pushing to end Tufts’s bizarre decision to extend special treatment to IVCF. 

  • Erp

    A few other points.

    1. The group hasn’t been rerecognized yet instead the ball has been kicked to the University chaplain to approve or disapprove

    2. This isn’t the first time that a question of group violation of university policy.  Apparently something similar happened back about 1990 (I was talking to someone who was involved in the earlier incident).

    3. If this is Intervarsity’s national policy does this mean that IV groups at other universities are in violation of those universities’ non-discrimination policies?

    4. Perhaps a solution is to have two tiers of student groups.  The first tier has to abide by the university policies but also gets university privileges (meeting space, possibly web space and email list space, use of the university name, finances through the student union, etc.). The other tier can meet on campus in the same way a group of student friends can meet on campus  but has no other privileges.   Note that most if not all IV groups have affiliated church(es) close by which can provide meeting space for large groups, can help in handling finances, etc..  

    5. I suspect IV doesn’t really trust its student members not to elect a known LGBTA (A for ally) hence the need for an a priori ban.

  • Gus Snarp

    This is absurd. It’s very different from a church hiring a pastor, it’s a student organization electing a leader. If the members don’t want a certain kind of leader, they can simply vote for someone else. 

    Obviously what this is really about is a thin veil to cover the fact that they found out that this young man was gay and they want to kick him out immediately because they are so filled with fear and hate that they can’t just wait until the term ends and elect someone else, or else they don’t trust their own members to be as fearful and hateful as they are.

    I think the exception is wrong, but I also think, this not being a church employee covered by the recent and atrocious Supreme Court decision on discrimination in church employment, that they should analyze this case and rule that the group simply practiced outright discrimination, that there is no reasonable person who would conclude that this had anything to do with minor doctrinal points, but rather had everything to do with anti-gay bigotry, and kick the group out anyway.

    I can see the hearing as the group’s leaders are questioned about Bible verse after Bible verse and ask if they believe it. I wonder how many of them have tattoos, wear blended fiber clothing, eat shellfish, work on Sunday, fail to stone adulterers…….

  • dissenter88

    Why exactly should a “Friendly Atheist’s” opinion about how a religious student group should act matter to that group? Your position is that you disagree with their belief and therefore they shouldn’t be able to have it and be treated equally with other groups. In other words, you believe their belief is unacceptable. Why exactly is your belief more valid than theirs?

    • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

      They “were” being treated equally, which is the point. All these groups had to abide by the nondiscrimination policy. Why should one group have an exemption simply because they’re religious?


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